Tutukaka to Whangarei

After spending a night in Whangamumu, we sailed south to Tutukaka on a summer day in New Zealand that resembled a typical summer day in San Francisco—windy, cold, and gun-metal grey. I was wearing a down jacket in the middle of the afternoon, and even Dominic pulled on some fleece. Comfort aside, the sail was good. The wind was blowing from the stern quarter, although we had larger seas than the day before.

We spent the next morning exploring the modern village around Tutukaka Bay: homes along the shore and hilltop, a clutch of boats at anchor, a marina with pile moorings, and a quay lined with a hotel, restaurants, day spa, and small grocery store. Tutukaka is a 20 minute scenic drive from Whangarei, and we're considering leaving Helios in the marina in the next few months while we do some land-based traveling.

The sun was shining around 11 am when we raised the the hook to make way for Whangarei. We had only a few miles of ocean sailing before we curved southwest around the Whangarei Heads, a peninsula of tree-toped bluffs and shrubbed crags. Ahead, small  fishing boats drifted with lines in the water and sandwiches in hand, and motorboats sped by pulling inner-tubes as the ocean had become a lake; and in a jarring transition of seascapes, looking behind we saw a flotilla of racing sailers, heeled to 30 degrees in the pelagic winds.  

We were neither vacationing nor speeding, so we made use of our recent gunk-holing practice. We motored upriver, stowing our sails and hanging our fenders as the depth shallowed and the river narrowed. Then we reached the bridge.

Built in 2013 for $32 million Kiwi, the bridge is known as the 'Fishhook of Pohe' and is inspired by the shape of the Maori fishhook. It's a drawbridge, but you'll notice that it isn't quite closed on the righthand side. The steel expands so much in the heat that, on the days when  the temperatures stay high into the late afternoon, the lowering arm can't fully descend. 'Bridge Can't Handle the Heat' says the local headline. 

Such were the conditions when we arrived. The technician first said it would be 10 minutes, so we tied off on the small dock near the canal, then he said he didn't know how long it would take. Inshallah, one of the boats racing behind us, pulled in and rafted along side us. The technician, speaking over the bridge's public vhf station, said he was just going to 'try to bring it down a little harder this time.'

Mercifully, the Inshallah crew were locals, so they had the cajones to just yell up at the technician to lift the bridge and let us pass below before he tried any more drastic maneuvers. 

We're now tucked safely away in the Whangarei Marina. We're on the same dock as Inshallah, and have friends on docks, pilings, and pulled out in neighboring boatyards. There are chandleries, hardware stores, paint suppliers, grocers, and yoga studios within a few blocks, and a washing machine and dryer at the end of the dock. A place where boat projects are done easily and efficiently, we're hoping.